The Nearly Perfect 10 Day Trip to Myanmar – Leg 1: Yangon

**Sadly, due to recent events, I’m adding this note and suspending the series before completing Part III. In October and November 2016, an increase in violence in the northern regions has led to a number of village burnings and significant loss of life. As a result, I encourage anyone considering a visit to research events and the current status before making any decisions. For the time being, it looks like many of the recent gains made are being eroded.**

When we decided to visit Myanmar, we wanted to explore a country we knew very little about. You can read up on all of the misconceptions we had before going in this post.

We wanted to see Bagan, visit the amazing temples there, and to catch the one-legged paddling fishermen of Inle Lake if possible. Beyond that? We knew very little. The initial plan was to spend around 5 days in-country before continuing on to Laos. Ultimately, we decided to skip Laos completely and instead doubled up our visit to Myanmar.

Myanmar (formerly Burma), is a wonderful country that recently started to open up again to travel. To recap my previous post, it’s; 1) safe 2) easy to get around 3 ) easy to access 4) still very affordable and, 5) already has a comfortable tourist infrastructure. For some familiar with the earthquake in August 2016, the majority of the damage was to repairs that had been made during a controversial series of repairs 10-20 years ago. In essence, it wiped the slate clean. Everything I’ve seen and read says that most of the temples and pagodas impacted are being repaired rapidly and will re-open soon, if they have not already done so.

It’s also worth noting that the famous balloons over Bagan only fly seasonally. So, if you go in July like we did, you will not see them. They’re also extremely expensive. Lastly, we didn’t fly, but apparently most of the material about the internal airlines being extremely unsafe is 2+ years out of date with the Government overhauling things and replacing aged aircraft with new ones.

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The Streets of Yangon

Yangon

With Yangon we were expecting a bustling, loud, moped infested, smelly, impoverished capital city.  What greeted us was an extremely clean city where mopeds and motorcycles are completely banned. We stayed in a small hostel just off of China Town which was the perfect spot for getting around.  The taxi in from the airport was well regulated, no-nonsense and cost us 8,000 kyat (6.5 dollars or so).

The Streets of Yangon

Outside of fairly poor wifi and surprisingly high rates, the hostel was modern and everything a typical modern has to offer. Interestingly, throughout the trip we alternated between hotels and hostels. The hostels were often as/if not more expensive than 2-4 star hotels and usually ran between 10-20 USD a night per person. This might have been in part due to it being off-season, but I suspect it’s more just that they’ve figured out that people want the social atmosphere even if the price is similar to what they’d pay for a hotel room.

London – Tango Fire Argentina Tango Show

Tuesday – Woke up feeling a cold coming on. No fun. As a result I’m home a bit early 10:00ish and taking it easy tonight. Hopefully sleep, water, etc. will kick it before it takes hold.

I started the day off by going to the Imperial War Museum. It’s an incredible thing, a maze of winding rooms full of stories, happy, sad, grim, and incredible. They really do a great job of presenting the stories but not overwhelming you with content. One of the most interesting parts was a re-creation area modeled after the trenches from WWI. They have it in a seperate area, with lights dimmed, you wind through tight quarters that look like you’re in the maze and in the action. Though it’s full of manikins and plaster it is still a great bit.

From there I headed into London proper, exploring Hyde Park and wandering all over the downtown. Too many places to list, but I mainly revisited China Town, Soho, Piccadilly, etc. before eventually deciding to pick up another set of theatre tickets for this evening. In the Tube I’d seen advertisements for Tango Fire – a play of sorts. When I got to the discount ticket booth, i debated seeing Phantom or Les Mis again, and decided against it. Of the other shows discounted i saw Tango Fire and decided to go with it. Check the website for them here: http://www.tango-fire.com/ I really had no idea what it was, other than it was a show, and focused on tango – so I figured it had to be good…right? =p

After picking up the tickets I killed 2.5 hours eating, relaxing, and wandering a bit more. Then I started toward the Picadilly Station to head to the Hoburn Station which was closer to the venue. Turns out there was a track failure somewhere and Picadilly was backlogged like you would’nt believe. It was fubar’d so – looking at the lines of people going in, I decided I was better off walking. The walk was a good 15 fminutes forced march, but ended up being perfect as I still arrived with time to spare.

The show itself – incredible. As I understand it, it’s a traveling performance – if it comes to Phoenix…See it! There are 10 dancers (5 male/5 female), a singer, and 4 band members. Violin, piano, bandoneon & double bass. That’s it. For the most part there were only 2 sets. The rest was all dancing or music. The program primarily consisted of the band playing as the dancers danced incredible tango routines – sometimes solo, sometimes all at once. Think of Dancing With the Stars – but 1,000 times better and more impressive. Other times the singer would sing while the band played. Other times the band performed solo. Throughout the entire performance it was tango song after tango song. The sound quality was incredible and each 45 minute half passed in what seemed like moments.

The dancers themselves performed complex steps, kicks, flips, lifts, holds, and of course dips. I’ve never seen tango quite like it. If there are video’s on the web, i’d definitely say take a look.

Now, i’m back at the hostel and preparing for bed. G’night!